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Solving Springfield's Code Enforcement Issues


Neighbors in Jacksonville's historic Springfield neighborhood have been crying foul lately over their battles with the city’s code enforcement division.Residents of the neighborhood say they think their neighborhood is being unfairly targeted for citations, and the demolition of some historic structures.

At the same time, some city officials say they’re trying to mitigate the issues in Springfield.

Jacksonville City Councilman Robin Lumb joined Melissa Ross for a closer look at what's happening in Springfield.

"We have identified in and around the Springfield area about 217 properties that have an accumulated $50 million in code enforcement liens," Lumb explained.

If a code enforcement issue is not resolved by a homeowner, rolling fines may be assessed that could add up to hundreds of dollars per day for every day a violation remains. Homeowners who cannot afford necessary repairs without a loan are then "locked in place," Lumb said, since banks won't finance a loan with a large ongoing debt to the city threatening their bottom lines.

Lumb said city lawmakers had begin working on the issue more than a year ago, but that they discovered that the city cannot reduce or eliminate code enforcement fines and liens unless a property is brought into compliance.

The city has since rewritten it's internal lien reduction policies to help homeowners.

"We've created a process by which the liens and the fines will be reduced to a known amount once the properties have been brought into compliance. We've created an option for debt subordination to a qualified lender so that the lending on the property to being it into compliance takes priority over the city's lien," Lumb said.

Over then next two-and-a-half years, if homeowners bring their properties into compliance, their outstanding fines will be reduced to either 2 1/2 percent of the value of the property or 2 1/2 percent of the value of the fine, whichever is less.

"If you have a $100,000, a $200,000 fine, your maximum fine going forward is going to be $2,500," Lumb said. "If you have a $100,000 home and a $50,000 fine, your maximum fine amount would be $1,250.

Lumb said that he believes there are a lot of investment property owners in the neighborhood who may have already walked away from their properties and that this policy gives them a chance to come into compliance before the city starts foreclosure proceedings.

"It's probably accurate," Lumb said, responding to a listener who said that over a lifetime in Jacksonville she had never seen code enforcement violations until moving to Springfield.

"It's because a lot of the folks who live there have significantly invested in their homes and property and when they see violations occur they're more likely than perhaps people in other parts of the city to call code enforcement and make that referral," he said.

You can follow Melissa Ross on Twitter @MelissainJax and Patrick Donges @patrickhdonges.

Melissa Ross joined WJCT in 2009 with 20 years of experience in broadcasting, including stints in Cincinnati, Chicago, Orlando and Jacksonville. During her career as a television and radio news anchor and reporter, Melissa has won four regional Emmys for news and feature reporting.
Patrick Donges served as WJCT's Digital Content Editor from August 2013 - August 2014.